Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sparks Flew!

Imagine 51,000 people, the vast majority of them women and girls. Many of them are wearing either hand-decorated t-shirts, or light summer dresses, cowboy hats and boots. Now imagine them all, screaming as one, or singing along with one huge voice, and you just might have some idea what it was like to be at the Taylor Swift concert at Lincoln Financial Field last night.
Taylor Swift is coming out soon!

I bought three tickets for concert way back in February. The plan was that dd and I would go, and dd would pick a friend to join us. Dd asked her good friend from next door, and they both have been counting down the days until the concert for weeks. A few days ago, they had the idea to make special t-shirts.
Taylor Swift Concert shirts
The shirts have a picture of Taylor Swift on the front ...
Taylor Swift shirts 2
...and a list of all the girls' favorite T.S. songs on the back. (They also decided to write "Swift" on the top of the back of the shirt, like a sports jersey. Get it? Team Swift?)

The concert turned out to be amazing, and one of the best shows I have ever seen in my my entire life. It may even be the best show, I am not sure. It was dd's first concert ever--I hope she's not spoiled for life now, LOL.

The opening acts seemed to go on forever. I guess I am out of practice when it comes to concerts: when I saw the tickets said 7 p.m., I really thought we needed to be there by 7 p.m. Taylor Swift herself did not come on stage until about 8:30 or so, which made for a long wait, broken up by 3 or 4 songs each from a series of country singers. (The last one, NeedtoBreathe, we liked quite a lot, though.)

When the main show finally began, the crowd came to its feet and the sound of screaming was a palpable, living thing. It was amazing. The show began with words being written on the jumbo screens, and a Taylor Swift voiceover, but I could not really hear what she was saying over the roar of the crowd. Then the singer herself rose up through a trap door in the floor of the stage. She began to sing "Sparks Fly," complete with fireworks shooting from the top of the stage to punctuate the chorus. The crowd was her back-up, singing along with every word.
Taylor Swift appears
That's when I realized this was no mere concert. This was going to be something else.

I still am not sure what to call last night's event. It was not just a concert. It was a show in every sense of the word. The production value was incredible. For every song, there was a dance, or a scene acted out, or a story was told. The band and the dancers were terrific. The staging was beautiful. The costume changes were many.

For "Back to December," Taylor Swift and a white piano rose from beneath the stage in a glitter snowstorm that captivated the crowd. Dd tapped my shoulder, bouncing and pointing. "The snow is glitter, Mom, it's GLITTER!" For "Haunted," Swift pretended to ring enormous brass bells that eventually were lifted above the stage to reveal dancers suspended beneath them. There was something special in every song of the night. And throughout it all, Taylor Swift seemed as impressed with the huge crowd that sang as one as it was with her. "Philly," she said, more than once, "You're AMAZING."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Monster Knitting

Possibly the only thing that did not get done on the mountain vacation was knitting. There was not a lot of sitting around time, and what there was got completely absorbed by the 959-page, 10 pound, A Dance With Dragons, that I dragged around all week (even to Camelbeach!).

I knitted a total of 4 rows on the lace edging to my Taygete shawl. That's it.
Well, I actually knitted them twice, since the first time I totally messed up. So can I count 8 rows of knitting? Over 300 stitches a row? Maybe not. Oh well.

Fortunately, there was a lot more knitting going on at home before we left. Mathboy finished his Loch Ness Monster, from Hansi Singh's Amigurumi Knits, about a month ago.
Loch Ness 1
Loch Ness 2
Isn't it adorable? He did everything by himself with this monster. There were several difficult skills that he had to learn, including seaming, picking up stitches, kitchnering, short rows, and i-cord. I was impressed.

After he finished that, we were both excited to start some projects out of our newest indulgence: The Big Book of Knitted Monsters, by Rebecca Danger.

I decided to start with Bea the Basement Monster. I figured it would be a great stash-buster pattern, calling for 1 skein of worsted wool and another 1/2 skein in a contrast color for the panel on the bottom of the monster's body. I grabbed a well-marinated skein of dusky purple Plymouth Galway that I found on a sale rack 3(?) years ago, and some leftovers of gorgeous Dream In Color Classy in a hot pink and purple blend called Ruby River, and dove right in.

I followed directions, gamely holding two strands of the yarn together and knitting around and around. I watched as the monster got bigger and bigger and the skein got smaller and smaller--and very quickly, too, since I was knitting from both the inside and the outside of the skein at the same time. Suddenly, I found myself scrounging in the cedar chest, hoping I still had another skein of purple Galway (whew! yes!). By the time I bound off the top of the body, Bea was an 18-inch tall monster of a monster!

Only then did I think to check Ravelry for other knitters' comments on the pattern. I learned that the pattern contains a pretty major mistake: it's not supposed to be knit double-stranded on size 9s, but rather single stranded on size 7s. The designer calmy told one ravelry user, oops sorry for the confusion. "Confusion?" This is a pretty major mistake, that doubles the amount of yarn you need for the project. It's more than just a little "confusion." There is no errata listed anywhere for the pattern. If you can't access knitter comments on Ravelry, you're out of luck.

No matter. She's huge but she's awesome. She likes to hang out on Dd's bed, because she matches the decor so perfectly. And because she's so big, she's a perfect back rest.

Mathboy started Lurlene the Laundry Monster, out of a really soft spring green alpaca. As of today, he has finished the body and a couple of her limbs.
She likes to supervise his piano practicing.

X-Treme Mountain Adventure

MacDade Trail 1
Our usual summer vacations involve a lot of sitting. Most years, we rent a house in Ocean City, NJ, where we spend almost every day schlepping our chairs and umbrella and all to the beach, set up, slather the kids with sunscreen and settle down for the day. After a week of this, I typically have gotten through 2 books. There is some jumping of waves and some building of castles in the sand, but generally it's a pretty low-key way to spend a week.

This year we shook things up a bit.

In the Doane online auction fundraiser last November, we saw a listing for a week in a 2 bedroom villa at Fernwood Resort in Bushkill, in the Poconos, including two rounds of golf. No one had even made an offer yet. We had never been to Fernwood, and did not know anything about it beyond what I was able to find out on the Internet before the auction closed. The money would benefit Doane. The minimum bid was less than $100 a night, even ignoring the fact that Rich and Mathboy would get to play golf twice. How bad could it be? So we took a chance and offered the minimum bid, and we won the auction.

We did not know what the place was going to be like, but it seemed as if there were a lot of fun things to do in the area. We were determined to take full advantage. So last week, with Dd's friend ready to watch over the chickens in our absence, we packed our bags and drove off.
Cat wants to come too!
The cat tried to come with us.

We arrived in Bushkill along with some very gray skies. We couldn't check in yet, and that was the day we had planned to hike through Bushkill Falls. As soon as we finished eating our picnic lunch at the Bushkill Falls site, it started to pour. Mind you, it had barely rained in weeks--now that we were starting our outdoor vacation, the skies open up? It seemed pretty unfair. We were also getting worried, because our first glimpse of the Fernwood resort was pretty depressing. Grim, even. We tried to wait out the rain, but after an hour of browsing the gift shop and reading in the covered picnic area, we decided to just go ahead and do it anyway.
At Bushkill Falls in the rain
This is the only picture from Bushkill Falls that turned out to be any good. It's hard to take pictures in the rain! I didn't want my iPhone to get wet, and my Nikon kept trying to flash. Sheesh. Such a gorgeous, amazing place, and I have one picture.

After we got totally soaked at Bushkill falls, we drove back to Fernwood to check in, and we finally got to see our home for the next week. The villa was great! The kids had a loft with twin beds, we had a full kitchen, a jacuzzi tub and all sorts of amenities. It was the perfect place to serve as our home base for our X-Treme Mountain Adventure. (What a relief! I really was starting to think we had made a dreadful mistake.)

On Tuesday, Mathboy had decided that we should hike up to the top of the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, and we said okay with the optimism and hubris that only people who have climbed Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Park can have. After all, if we made it up Old Rag, we can do anything right?
Mt Tammany 2
Oh. My. God. After a couple of hours of this, we realized that the days of hiking Old Rag may be behind us. We persevered, and reaped our reward.
View from half up Mt. Tammany
View from Indian Head 1
View from Indian Head 4
View from Indian Head 5
This spectacular view of the Delaware Water Gap, from Indian Head at the top of Mount Tammany.

After we hiked back down (using the not so steep side of the mountain), we stopped in at Kittatinny Point, and enjoyed our picnic lunch and a soothing wade in the Delaware River.
Delaware water gap wading

The rest of the week included more hiking, through hills and swampy forests ...
...fording streams...
PEEC Stream
...rapelling down steep ridges ...
PEEC rapel line
...and following old rail lines between the river and the soybean fields.
MacDade Trail 2

While the guys played golf two mornings, dd got her first real horseback ride.
Fernwood horse ride
This is Phantom.

We also got to spend a day at Camelbeach Water Park, where Rich and I finally got to sit in those beach chairs for a day. We did ride a few water slides with the kids, but the beauty of having older kids is that you don't need to hold their hands all the time. (And I had a big book that I wanted to get through! It took me the whole vacation to finish A Dance With Dragons.)

We also got in a day of kayaking down the Delaware River, which was so relaxing.
kayaking 1
kayaking 4
We liked that so much, that we want to look into getting some boats of our own, and a rack for the top of the car.

On the last day, I went to the outlets while Rich and the kids did the Treetop Rope Courses at CBK Adventures. After 3 and 1/2 hours of climbing and sliding and ziplining, the kids came down with smiles and Rich came down with his arms shaking. It was quite a work out! Then it was time to go home.